Saturday, 14th December 2013
I suppose I should have realised it wasn't going to be a great day when popping into the Central for pre-match drink. The Central does that horrible smoothiflo (TM probably) stuff that they presumably think passes for bitter. In an attempt to imbue the stuff with something akin to taste I decided to order a light and bitter.
The order process was not a success. “What? You want something that DOESN'T pass through the body completely unchanged”? I patiently explained that all she had to do was fill a pint glass full of “bitter”, open a bottle of pale ale bring me the two and I'd do the rest.
After an interminable wait the young lady returned with an empty half pint glass and asked: “what goes in here?” As I was about to go through the recipe for the third time, I spotted a bottle of “ Old Speckled Hen” (presumably ordered as an administrative error) lurking in the bar fridge so I ended up settling for that, lest I miss kick-off before getting served.
I'd have been better of persevering with the light & bitter, really.
Now some of you may think I'm desperately filling space at this point in an attempt to avoid having to talk about the match. And you'd be right. I could give you the team I suppose: JJ, Demel, Linda, Ginge, Tomkins, Noble, Diame, Jarvis, Morrison, Cole (J), Maiga.
Ok, I can't put this off any longer. It was a damned awful match. It really was. It was bad enough without ref Andre Marriner making it worse. But he did anyway. Sunderland had chances – created is probably not the word given the state of the match. A failed attempt at an offside trap saw us grateful that Altidore is not very good, shooting as he did low and not very hard at JJ.
Marriner got fed up with watching such ineptness and decided to get in on the act. A horrible two-footed lunge on Jarvis went unpunished whilst a slightly less horrible one from Noble met with a yellow card. Demel had a goal disallowed, a barely perceptible nudge being picked up over any of the rather more obvious infringements that were going on.
Then came one of the most bizarre incidents of the season. Finally getting a decision right for the first time in the match in giving a free-kick against Altidore, Marriner finally lost what little grasp of the plot he ever had.
Altidore stood in front of the ball, a distance of some six yards away. I know this because a) the mowing bands at the Boleyn are about six yards deep, and b) I'm an intelligent human being who can tell the difference between six yards and ten.
Now you'd think that, even if you weren't aware of point a), being in possession of the skills outlined in point b) would be one of those things that you'd expect a select group referee to have gotten down to a fine art. Nah, don't be silly.
Despite it being pointed out that Altidore was not back the required distance, Marriner decided that that particular part of the laws of the game was having a day off. Altidore, emboldened by the knowledge that he wasn't going to be picked up for delaying the restart, took a further step forward and blocked Ginge's free kick allowing Borini to bear down on goal and shoot weakly at JJ.
Thankfully it didn't change the outcome (unlike many other of our matches this season) but it summed up in on one daft moment why the only people satisfied with Premier League refereeing standards are those who are milking it for all they can.
The visitors had two good chances before the interval. Bardsley went on a run down the left which was being tracked by Cole (J) until he was distracted by an overlap. Given space by Cole's hesitation, Bardsley let fly with a 30-yarder which came back off the crossbar with JJ beaten. Then Cattermole took time out from leaving his foot in all over the place to shoot again from distance that JJ did well to turn away. And that was that for the half.
The teams left to a chorus of boos – though these were largely aimed at Marriner, who was lapping it up as he was escorted off by some rather large gentlemen. Our bit of the ground swapped cards and presents, which, quite frankly, was about the most interesting thing to happen for the next hour or so.
During the course of the second half, for the record Collison replaced Jarvis on 55 minutes. At the same time Carlton Cole was stripped off and the fourth idiot actually got as far as keying numbers into the electonic thingy before Maiga was told to stay on.
The reason or the change of mind became apparent two minutes later as Demel was replaced by Joey O'Brien. Carlton finally got on the pitch properly with about 15 minutes left when replacing his namesake.
JJ had to be on his toes to keep out a shot from the left hand side of the box from Ki Sung-Yueng but it was bloody awful stuff largely. Sunderland, possibly encouraged by Marriner's tendency to get even the simplest of decisions wrong, started to appeal for handball whenever the ball got anywhere near an opponent. I'll grant them that JJ did pick up one or two weak shots but appealing at the ballboys was taking the mick.
The game was really summed up by the moment that Tomkins won the ball in defence and went on a run. Which went on and on and on, finishing some 80 yards from where he'd started. Once he'd won the throw in it was noticeable that he other ten players in claret and blue were all stood exactly where they were when he'd started the run.
We than saw a spot of gamesmanship as a promising move was brought to an abrupt end by the collapse of Bardsley, a victim of some sort of death ray or sniper. He lay in a heap, apparently comatose until the ball was kicked out of play whereupon, praise the Lord, he was suddenly ok again. Tellingly the assistance of the physio was not required. Equally tellingly Marriner bottled the yellow card the incident required.
That was really just about it. The game petered out and the players left to another chorus of boos, only some of which were aimed at the referee.
I realise that, even after 36 hours of trying, I've not come up with much to write about. Even the apparent novelty of us playing with two strikers for a bit wore off once it became appant nobody wanted to feed either of them.
I sort of feel like I'm short-changing you all by coming to a premature end. It's not easy doing these you know. I mean those of you who were at the match can wipe this one out of your mind. So I'm reliving it all so you don't have to. Having said that, even with a load of space filler this is still rather a short report so, by way of amends here is a picture of some kittens.
On returning home I noted that we weren't actually last on MOTD. I went to bed shortly after on the premise that, if there had been a worse game than this one played that day I sure as hell didn't want to see it.
As it happens, despite the unsatisfactory nature of both performance and result, other results meant that we actually increased the gap between us and the bottom three to, er, one point. That's about the best bit of spin I can find to be going on with.
That and the fact that we're not Spurs, I suppose.
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Made a number of decent saves and was probably more deserving of the MOTM than sponsors' pick Diame.
Looked a little off the pace – possibly as a result of the unspecified illness from which he spent the week .
Decent enough showing against his old club, though distribution could have been better.
A less error strewn run-out than normal, though even allowing for the fact that Altidore was only stood about six yards away he should have cleared him from that distance.
The run provided some light relief in amongst a pretty solid performance.
Too many times he turned away from an obvious ball out wide only to run into traffic.
Some good runs but the overall effect was spoilt by poor decision making over when to run and when to pass.
Didn't influence proceedings at all I'm afraid.
Good runs down the left spoilt by some pretty average crossing.
Similar to Diame there were good runs but there were times when a short lay off might have been preferable.
Not for the first time I felt a bit sorry for him. Won a number of headers that nobody else seemed interested in getting on the end of.
Stumbled into a shot when a bit more composure might have reaped some reward.
Joey O Brien
Did ok defensively but seemed unusually all at sea going forward.
No service. No impact.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Man of the Match: Jussi Jaaskelainen.
West Ham United
Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, George McCartney, James Collins, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Mo Diame, Joe Cole, Matt Jarvis, Ravel Morrison, Modibo Maiga.
Booked: Mark Noble 25 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Vito Mannone, Ondrej Celustka, John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley, Lee Cattermole, Sung-Yeung Ki, Emanuele Giaccherini, Sebastian Larsson, Fabio Borini, Jozy Altidore.
Substitutes: Adam Johnson (Fabio Borini 72), Steven Fletcher (Jozy Altidore 73), Andrea Dossena (Phil Bardsley 82).
Subs not used: Adilson Cabral, Jordan Pickford, Valentin Roberge, Craig Gardner.
Booked: None booked..
Sent Off: None sent off..